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Maine Windjammers, Inc. v. Sea3, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 11, 2019

MAINE WINDJAMMERS, INC., Plaintiff
v.
SEA3, LLC, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL ADDITIONAL VESSEL VISIT OF EXPERT THOMAS HILL[1]

          John H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendants Sea3, LLC, Robert H. Larsen, and Stephen Taylor (together, “Sea3”) move to compel plaintiff Maine Windjammers, Inc. (“Windjammers”) to allow Sea3's retained expert, Thomas Hill, to visit the S/V Halie & Matthew (“Vessel”) for a third inspection. See Defendants' Motion for Expert Thomas Hill To Visit the Vessel (“Motion”) (ECF No. 63). Because Sea3's request is untimely and disproportional to the needs of the case and, in any event, the information sought could be obtained, substantially, by less burdensome means, I deny the motion.

         I. Applicable Legal Standards

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34(a) grants a party the right to request that another party “produce and permit the requesting party or its representative to inspect . . . any designated tangible things[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1)(B). However, such requests must be “within the scope of Rule 26(b)[.]” Id. Rule 26(b)(1) allows parties to

obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).

         “While district courts are to interpret liberally the discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to encourage the free flow of information among litigants, limits do exist.” Heidelberg Ams., Inc. v. Tokyo Kikai Seisakusho, Ltd., 333 F.3d 38, 41 (1st Cir. 2003). For instance, Rule 26(b)(2)(C) requires courts to limit the extent of otherwise allowable discovery if

(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;
(ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or
(iii) the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1). Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C).

         Finally, “[a] district court's case-management powers apply with particular force to the regulation of discovery and the reconciliation of discovery disputes.” Faigin v. Kelly, 184 F.3d 67, 84 (1st Cir. 1999). “Several courts have used this management power to deny untimely motions to compel.” Burgos-Martinez v. City of Worcester, 345 F.Supp.3d 105, 106 (D. Mass. 2018).

         II. Factual Background

         This action involves a dispute between Windjammers and Sea3 over a maritime contract, namely, an agreement that Sea3 would bareboat charter the Vessel with an option to purchase her. Motion at 1. Beginning on March 17, 2017, Sea3 took possession of the Vessel and made significant changes to her. Amended Complaint (ECF No. 13) ¶¶ 12-13. Windjammers alleges that Sea3 abandoned the Vessel on September 23, 2017, after failing to complete required repairs and improvements and cure a payment default. Id. ¶¶ 14-17. Central to the parties' dispute is whether, as Windjammers alleges, Sea3 left the Vessel in a state of disrepair and in worse condition than when Sea3 took possession of her, id. ¶ 32, or, as Sea3 contends, the Vessel was delivered to Sea3 in an unseaworthy state, causing Sea3 to incur costs of improvements and repairs, Amended Counterclaims, commencing at page 13 of Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs Sea 3, LLC's, Robert H. Larsen, Jr.'s, and Stephen Taylor's Answer, Affirmative Defenses and Amended Counterclaims (ECF No. 38), ¶¶ 32, 40-41.

         Sea3's designated expert, Thomas Hill, inspected the Vessel twice while it was alongside in Portland, Maine: once on May 14, 2018, and again on February 21, 2019. Motion at 1-2. Mr. Hill drafted a report based on those visits as well as his review of documents that included deposition transcripts. Letter dated March 11, 2019, from Thomas R. Hill, AMS, to Twain Braden, Esq. (“Hill Report”) (ECF No. 52-1), attached to ...


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